Press Release: Bay Area Council Proposes Path Forward to End High-Speed Rail Impasse on the Peninsula

Today, the Bay Area Council sent a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) urging the Commission to take a leadership role in the planning of high-speed rail in the Bay Area.  In the letter, the Council suggests that the recently proposed plan to merge the development of high-speed rail on the Peninsula with the electrification of Caltrain is a promising path forward and could provide the framework for a unified vision for high-speed rail in the region.

“California high-speed rail and the electrification of Caltrain are an historic opportunity for our region,” said Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman. “Our region is always more successful when we speak with one voice, and we have always struggled when we squabble amongst ourselves.  Our region needs to resolve the various project concepts into a single project vision, and we urge the well-respected Metropolitan Transportation Commission to take on that unifying role.  United, we can bring these funds to our region and relieve some of the worst traffic in the United States.”

In the letter, the Bay Area Council calls for the creation of a coalition of local agencies, led by MTC, that would act as the regional planning partner for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.  The coalition would organize the local agencies affected by the development of high-speed rail, presenting a unified voice to the Authority and providing a vehicle for more local engagement in the planning process.

The coalition would be a reliable regional partner that would provide expert input and analysis during the planning process, helping to shape the High-Speed Rail Authority’s final plan, to be released in late 2012.  A similar coalition, representing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metrolink, the Orange County Transportation Authority, the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the San Diego Association of Governments, Amtrak, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was created to partner with the California High-Speed Rail Authority in Southern California.

“Despite heated rhetoric of the past, in the end we all want what is best for the region,” said Wunderman.  “Luckily a spirit of compromise is emerging to make sure this project materializes.  We want to recognize the thoughtful leadership of Senator Simitian, Assemblymember Gordon, and Congresswoman Eshoo and their extremely hardworking staff, who put together the proposal to merge the Caltrain electrification and high-speed rail projects.  We will continue to work with them to drive this project to fruition.”

In the letter, the Council outlines a set of parameters, subject to revision by the proposed coalition, for the final project plan:

  • Brings both high speed rail and Caltrain electrification to the Peninsula as soon as possible, by utilizing a simple design that can be funded and built quickly.
  • Provides sufficient speed, capacity, and flexibility to support an attractive high speed rail service, while also providing adequate capacity for robust Caltrain service.
  • Minimizes community impacts by forgoing construction elements that are not needed in the near/mid-term.
  • Connects to the Transbay Terminal.
  • Meets legal requirements necessary to access Proposition 1A high speed rail bond funds.
  • Is designed such that future upgrades, should they be necessary and desired at a future date, would not require unnecessary disruption or wasteful reconstruction.

In addition to calling for the creation of this coalition, the Bay Area Council is committed to developing a unified voice of support from the business community for high-speed rail, particularly on the Peninsula.  The Bay Area Council has hired Alex Tourk of Ground Floor Public Affairs to lead an organizing and public outreach effort, including meeting with local elected officials, stakeholders and members of the business community.

“We look forward to hearing MTC’s feedback on our proposal and hope that we can work together to take advantage of this historic opportunity,” said Wunderman.

To read the letter, visit:

Press Release PDF

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